The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the state government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) not to grant any further permission for installation of mobile towers in playgrounds, recreation grounds, parks and gardens.
The HC was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by several petitioners, including NGO Nagar (NGO Alliance of Government and Renewal) and charitable organisations Agni Trust and Organisation for Verdant Ambience and Land Trust, which challenged the notification issued by the state government on March 4, 2014, permitting installation of mobile towers in public open spaces like playgrounds, recreation grounds, parks and gardens.
“Around 1,400 such mobile towers are proposed to be set up in parks and they will have great consequences. These are recreation grounds used by children to play,” said senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, appearing for the petitioners. The state government sought time to take instructions on this issue. The HC has now granted the government two weeks’ time. “Do you know what this means?” asked the court. “The respondents shall not grant any further permission for erection of mobile towers in any recreation grounds, playgrounds, parks and gardens,” said Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice A K Menon.
“If you want to bring about such modification, you have to issue a public notice as this has far reaching ramifications. Fortunately nothing has been done so far. If one company has sought setting up of 1,400 towers, other might also make similar requests,” argued Chinoy.
The PIL states that no objections/suggestions from the public were called for before issuance of the notification and seeks for the notification to be quashed and set aside.
“The notification prohibits installation of mobile towers in the premises of schools and colleges as well as adjoining buildings within three meters from the boundary walls of schools and colleges on the ground that it will have deleterious effect on youth and students. It, however, arbitrarily permits the installation of mobile towers in recreation grounds, playgrounds, parks and gardens, which are primarily frequented by children, and youth for playing, exercise and leisure,” stated the PIL.
The petition further stated that the notification will lead to depletion of Mumbai’s already overburdened open spaces. “The availability of open spaces in Mumbai are abysmally below the national average and any further encroachment on these spaces is detrimental to the public interest,” it further stated.
On October 3, 2013, the state government published a notification inviting objections and suggestions to a proposed draft notification on installation of mobile towers issued under MRTP Act but had excluded land under any reservation in the concerned DP. The installation of telecom towers on reservations (including non-buildable reservations like playgrounds, recreation grounds etc) was first proposed by a mobile telecom company, stated the PIL. The state government then issued the notification on March 4, 2014 which allowed installation of towers in open spaces.
The court asked Chinoy if the mobile towers seeking permission were 4G towers and was told “they must be”.